Thanks to Fair Oaks Mall for inviting us to Santa’s Flight Academy!
By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
Santa has arrived at Fair Oaks Mall, and he’s recruiting for his flight crew! Visiting Santa to get that special Christmas photo is a tradition for many families. And it’s something you can do at many locations in town. But one of the things that sets “Santa’s Flight Academy” at Fair Oaks Mall apart is the enormous, interactive set that lets kids have fun while they wait their turn.
Now through Sunday, December 24, 2017, “Santa’s Flight Academy” turns the mall’s Grand Court West into Santa’s headquarters. The set combines a gigantic re-imagination of the North Pole with state-of-the-art technology that enables children to become an important member of Santa’s flight crew.
“Santa’s Flight Academy personalizes the journey for every child by placing them front and center as the hero who saves the day,” says Teresa Truong-Chea, the marketing and sponsorship director for Fair Oaks Mall.
How do kids do this? By helping with tasks that let them be part of Santa’s “flight crew” to ensure St. Nick can deliver presents to kids around the world. Upon arrival at Santa’s Flight Academy, each child uses an interactive screen to sign up to become a “cadet.” He or she then receives a keepsake badge (with a photo!) and uses it at multiple stations to perform various tasks.
Guests then swipe their IDs at each station to be fitted for a virtual flight suit, help inspect and power Santa’s sleigh before takeoff, check navigation, and perform other tasks. Be sure to check the email you provided at sign-up soon after: you will get a little video of your kid trying on the virtual flight suit!
Staff only allows a few guests at a time in the exhibit to give each child time to explore the equipment, so no one feels rushed. After completing their tasks, they step inside the giant, 22-foot-tall sleigh, which has lights, videos, and a “snowfall.”
Santa’s Flight Academy will be available daily through December 24, 2017; times vary by date. Because of the unique layout and anticipated high demand, Fair Oaks Mall encourages visitors to pre-register children for a Santa’s Flight Academy entrance badge online or through the mobile app available for both Android and iPhone platforms. Registration saves you time, because when you arrive for your appointment you don’t have to wait in line long.
If you want to make this truly a family experience for all, consider signing up for a pet-friendly “Santa Paws” session. Pet photos take place on select dates in November and December. And as a special treat, Santa’s Flight Academy has a sneak preview of the upcoming animated movie Ferdinand in partnership with 20th Century Fox.
We were invited to visit Santa’s Flight Academy last year and this year and both times have been fun for our son. The set is decorated beautifully, the sleigh is huge, and the interactive exhibits help pass the time in a fun way. Santa is very real here, and he has a great memory, too: we’ve been seeing him for years and when he commented on how much my son had grown this past year (he has!) it was nice to know that he remembers us just as we remember him.
As to the photos, these are always well done, and if you wish, the photographers will let you preview the photo to make sure you like it before you place your final order. Photos come out right away so you don’t have to wait once you’re done. Santa’s Flight Academy has several photo packages available, as well as some unique photo frames you can buy right there.
Are you ready to take flight? See our tips below to make the most of your visit to Santa’s Flight Academy, and print the coupon below to take advantage of an offer from Fair Oaks Mall to our readers. Merry Christmas, and… say cheese!
Tips for visiting Santa’s Flight Academy from our recent visit:
- Register online to save time (and start to create your badge!)
- Avoid the earliest and latest sessions each day, which can be the busiest; consider going on a weekday as we did, when lines are minimal
- Note that Santa takes breaks (to feed his reindeer!) each day between 12:30-1:15 pm and again 6:30-7:15 pm so no photo seesions take place then (see all the hours of operation)
- Look at the photo packages online before your visit, to save you time at check-out
- Bring a comb! …Or at least don’t let kids get too wild in the “snowfall” area, since the fluffy artificial snow does not just shake off that easily. A little snow on an outfit can add some holiday whimsy, but it may be shake off from hair that has any product in it)
- Pets must be up-to-date on their vaccinations and must either be on a leash or carried in a lightweight, portable pet carrier with a harness
- Since most pets who attend are dogs, if you have a cat who would be spooked, they normally will let you go to to the front of the line to avoid spooking the cat or exciting the dogs
- Your pet photos can include your children or your family
- These sessions take place before or after regular mall hours to make it easier on all guests; owners with pets must only use the mall entrance between Sushi On and Macy’s with Furniture
Disclosure: I received a photo package and other compensation to help get the word out about Santa’s Flight Academy. We have been customers of Santa photos at Fair Oaks Mall in previous years and the writing and opinion expressed here are my own.
Photos (c) P. Hall